On the way down I stopped off to see my old mate Dave Steuart. His first words were "Testwood! Huh, they keep all my salmon back..." There followed many, many minutes of ecological enlightenment on the art of sluicing a river.
I love Dave, 87 years young, shrinking steadily down to a scrap over five feet but as feisty and entertaining as ever. During the four hours or so I was there we chatted, went for a meal then chatted some more and I hardly got a word in. Nothing changes.
I left my grotty hotel at just after 7am and soon found the fishery. The pool at Testwood is amazing. Four main sluices create a series of swirling currents that each interact with each other, then, throw the effects of the tide into the mix and its an extremely demanding float venue. I began trotting the edge of a white water outlet which, twenty minutes later and at the top of the tide, became calmer and almost manageable, Half an hour later and its white water confusion again. No two trots were identical and loose feeding bread mash, well, I din't bother too much as it was pure guess work.
Mike Perry, who'd invited me down, was also on the float but Ian stuck to feeder fishing. His method was certainly the most 'effective' but I sit behind a lead rod most days so I stuck to the float. I was however, using a carbon rod for the first time in a couple of seasons as a whole day holding cane was never going to work with my still grumbling shoulder besides which, some of the water was very deep and, when I did give my Lucky strike a go I couldn't pick up the line quick enough to strike at distance.
I had a nice roach of about a pound which pleased me no end but, try as I might, I couldn't find any more. Moving around I had a very hard fighting bream which was followed not five minutes later by Mike taking a similar fish from the next swim. His however, was the most spectacular looking bream I have ever seen, I'll let the pictures do the talking. These were the only bream taken all day.
There followed brown and sea trout of between two and a half to three pounds but, after a break for lunch, the place became quiet and I failed to add to my catch.
Mike and Ian both caught many more than me but I was content as I'd had the biggest roach. I wimped out a little early and missed the dusk as I was feeling the aches and had a three hour plus drive home to come. All in all a great experience at a wonderful venue, to think there's well over a mile of the main river to fish as well but the lure of the raging weir is always going to call loudest. I shall return.